By Dennis Prescott
Updated September 30, 2014
© Dennis Prescott

Toronto: Home to the Blue Jays, the CN Tower and most of Canada’s population. It’s a bustling metropolis with anything you’d ever want or need in a city.

Having spent a few years traveling, guitar in hand, in a 15-passenger van across the Great White North, I’d been to Toronto. A lot. But it’s been only in the past couple of years that I’ve taken Toronto seriously as a culinary destination. I was always sold on the food greatness of Montreal and Vancouver, but Toronto just seemed to take a while to sink in. I’m not sure if it’s me or the city that’s changed, but Toronto is killing it these days. So many great spots, so little time.

A city this size (the fourth largest in North America) can be slightly overwhelming, though, when picking where you’re going to lunch.

I travel to eat. And if you’re anything like me, you land in a city, get hungry, open Yelp and search. The issue? My breakfast, lunch and dinner choices are typically on opposite ends of the city. The last thing I want to do is spend my day getting lost in subway stations.

The answer? Queen Street West. You could very easily spend an entire day eating and shopping your way down a two kilometer stretch of this street, which is exactly what I did.

Queen St West

9 a.m.: The Drake Hotel

Since this Toronto institution is known for it’s too cool for school vibe, I was admittedly slightly skeptical of the Drake. Wrong! Fantastic service, better food. Their Reubenesque Benny with house-cured corned beef and sauerkraut is to die for. The warm scone plate is a must. Bar service is available when the doors open, and their Caesar will fix what last night broke.

10:30 a.m.: Glory Hole Doughnuts

Please go here. Even if you’ve just eaten and can’t bare the idea of another bite. You owe it to your current and future self to go here. The menu is ever-changing, but I highly recommend the PB & J, S’more, and Bread and Butter doughnuts if they have them on tap. Best doughnuts in the city.

11:30 a.m.: The Spice Trader

Fantastic spice and oil shop that is certainly worth a stop. The staff is extremely knowledgeable, and the products are top notch. Take the time to stop and smell the spices.

1 p.m.: Early Bird Espresso Bar

This is absolutely my favorite coffee shop in Toronto. Amazing space. They were roasting local beans from Toronto’s Pilot Coffee Roasters, and Ceremony out of Annapolis, Maryland. I had a fantastic pour-over Kenyan and talked coffee seasons and brewing methods with the wonderfully nice barista. I couldn’t recommend going here more.

2:00 p.m. Banh Mi Boys

Kimchi pulled pork fries. Let that sink in for a second. The banh mi craze has taken over in the past couple of years, and “the Boys” are killing the game. Sandwich options include pork belly, beef cheek and duck confit; there’s also kalbi beef tacos and steamed bao. This shop is well worth a visit for a delicious (and affordable) lunch. The only issue? Prepare to wait for a table. People watching on Queen Street West is second to none, though, so you’ll have no problem passing the time.

3:00 p.m. The Burgers Priest

Started by a former seminary student, this burger joint is arguably Toronto’s best. Burger options such as the Priest, the Vatican, and the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse have people literally lined up out the door. Burgers, custard, floats. The Priest is comfort food done right. Having just eaten lunch, we opted for dessert. Local ice cream plus homemade cookies equals the perfect ice cream sandwich. I’ll go back to have a burger there soon. That’s a guarantee.

8 p.m. Terroni

Classic Toronto, classic southern Italian. The perfect spot for a great meal, and a glass of wine (or four). Terroni has three Toronto locations and has recently expanded, opening two Los Angeles spots. The house-cured prosciutto and charcuterie plates are the perfect blend of sweet and savory. And the Tonnarelli alla Norcina with black truffle shavings and homemade sausage is reason enough for me to go back to Toronto. Slightly romantic without being cheesy. Slightly posh without being stuffy. The perfect way to end a marathon day of eating.